I fell for it. Again.
After the Mavericks traded for Tyson Chandler, after the euphoria of realizing the Mavs crossed off their biggest off-season concern and barley used any cap space to do it, my thoughts immediately switched to Carmelo Anthony.
"Oh my god," I thought. "They figured it out."
You see, the biggest problem with the Mavericks' last two big free agent pushes was they outsmarted themselves. They let the championship team walk and figured they'd easily pounce on luxury-tax-stricken teams and woo the next star after Dirk over with hoards of cap space and the "championship culture."
The problem is, they forgot about their roster. After the Tyson trade, it seemed the Mavericks finally figured it out. Instead of selling a star on Dirk, Carlisle and the dust in the wind they have a healthy Dirk, Carlisle, Monta Ellis AND a top five center in the league. That's a much easier sell than Dirk and spare parts.
Deron Williams in 2012 saw Shawn Marion and Dirk. That's it. Meanwhile the Nets just kept making moves. Were they good moves? Probably not. But it doesn't matter if WE thought they were good moves. It doesn't even matter if the Mavs thought they were good moves. It mattered if Deron thought they were good moves. It didn't matter if Cuban didn't think his presence at the meeting would swayed things. Deron did. He signed with the Nets.
A summer later, the Mavs went after Dwight Howard. The cupboard was even barer that summer. There was Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and...a hobbled Dirk? It's hard to sell the Mavs or Dirk when Dirk was coming off his worst season since his rookie year and had a major knee injury and surgery.
Sure, we knew Dirk was going to be fine. The Mavs did too. But it didn't matter what the Mavs thought. It mattered what Dwight Howard thought. And Dwight Howard saw a barren roster and a hobbled star. In Houston, he saw James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. He signed with Houston.
Later after Dwight picked Houston, Cuban talked about his pitch to Dwight. He pitched a two-year plan, that the Mavs wouldn't be able to compete for a title right away in 2014, but be a good team and then load up with more cap space for the 2015 season and try for a title.
Think about that for second: the Mavs didn't say they'd win right away. That's insanity. It's the truth and it's a smart plan because with Dwight in tow, free agency the next summer really would have been a breeze. But again, it doesn't matter if the Mavs think they're right. It matters if Dwight thought they were right. He didn't.
Now fast forward to Wednesday evening. Melo just spent a day with Chicago and six hours in Houston. There was nothing but overflowing good reports from both of those meetings. Of course there should be. When has there ever been a report of a bad meeting?
There was lots of red-carpet-luxury at these meetings too. Chicago draped the United Center in Melo swag, with posters and signs all over the area with Melo in a Bulls jersey. In Houston, the same thing happened, albeit with the hilarious misfortune that they photoshopped Melo into Jeremy Lin's jersey.
Regardless, there was just an overwhelming amount of positive vibes from each meeting. He watched Rose work out. He met with Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson. There was a private, players-only deal with Dwight and James Harden.
Now it's 9:17 p.m. Dallas time as I sit here on a Wednesday night and type this. Carmelo's meeting with the Mavs is over. It lasted a little over two hours.
You've got to be kidding me. Carmelo's meeting in Dallas was shorter than the latest Transformers movie and it probably sucked just as hard too. Melo arrived in Dallas with little fanfare -- there were no posters, no signs, no outpouring of public support.
There was just a limo. A limo that took Melo to an undisclosed location. Hell, they even confused one of the beat writers:
Wasted my time hanging at the AAC waiting on Melo to show up. The meeting is probably at Dirk's or Cuban's house.— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) July 2, 2014
Melo got into a limo and reportedly went to dinner at a steakhouse in Dallas before finishing the meeting at Cuban's mansion. They did all that in two hours? Did they order drive-thru? Maybe they just ordered take-out at Cuban's place.
Again, the Mavs have probably outsmarted themselves. Days before the meeting, Cuban openly talked about how he wasn't going to offer Melo the max and instead sell him on the team, Dirk and the organization. At the time, we just treated it as a throwaway comment that was just public speak. The Mavs have always pushed a team-first mentality and if Melo said he'd come to Dallas for the max, the Mavs would bend to meet him, right?
Maybe not. Again, these are just the ramblings of an insane person. But the two hour meeting looks bad. The subdued meeting arrangements look even worse and the comments leading up to this meeting make those mysterious two hours just look awful from the outside.
It gives the impression that the Mavs are a stubborn lot who hold a set of standards that they refuse to bend to meet the market. It doesn't matter if the Mavs feel it's the right thing for Melo to want to take less than the max to play for the team, the coach, the organization, blah, blah, blah. It matters if MELO THINKS THAT.
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. If you want a star free agent, you meet that star free agent's demands. Just look at Cuban's comments after Dwight picked Houston:
"You choose teams. You don't choose players," Cuban said. "If he made a choice off of an individual player, yeah, he made a mistake. You choose teams. You choose organizations. You choose coaches. And it's just not relative to Houston. That's just the way I look at it, because if he's that good, then the right organization ...
"Put aside Dwight. Any young superstar looking to make a move, if you're that good, then the right organization gets all the right pieces around you. So it's not about you'd rather play with this guy. If you're that good and you have [salary-cap] flexibility, the right organization will put the right pieces around you and get you there."
In a perfect world, Cuban's exactly right. Players should care about an organization's plan and ability to build around the pieces to the star. But, news flash, THAT'S NOT HOW PLAYERS THINK. Players want to play on a good team and they want money. It's not that hard.
Yet the Mavericks continually think they're ahead of the curve when it comes to star free agents. After Dwight left, Cuban said the Mavs were better off. Yeah, so that's why you emptied two years of Mavs fans' souls into the garbage for a chance to sign him? Give me a break.
Here's how the Carmelo meeting probably went:
Cuban: "Carmelo, we really want you in Dallas."
Melo: "Than why are you trying to hide the fact that I'm in your city right now."
Cuban: "Uhh, flexibility, uhh...organization...uh...foundation."
Melo: "Look can you at least give me the max then."
Melo: "Check please!"
When Carmelo ultimately signs with New York, Chicago or Houston, it'll be another failure. But the Mavericks will never admit that. They're always the smartest ones in the room, remember?